Join 3,366 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Slight Future
January 13, 2014 9:13 AM   Subscribe

Why Her Will Dominate UI Design Even More Than Minority Report
posted by Artw (223 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
Voice?

Ha ha ha. No.

Voice is an awful interface to work with and of course much much more distracting than a visual interface.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:19 AM on January 13 [34 favorites]


People don't want to watch characters in a movie constantly checking Facebook or Twitter.

But yeah, voice is a horrible UI for most things.
posted by Foosnark at 9:23 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


I'm so excited about Her that I - for the first time ever - used my movie theater's reminder app just so I could book the tickets earliest possible. Hell, I'll watch it alone if I have to. That's a level of commitment to media consumption that I haven't been able to make in years.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:24 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


The first paragraph of this article immediately demolishes the argument of the remainder. The filmmaker set out to make a movie with an AI in it and, after doing research, realized that the technology behind the AI was irrelevant.

...

so now here's a feature about why the technology behind the AI (that he made up because the reality of it didn't matter to the movie he was making) is extremely relevant.

In the end it was an interesting profile of the aesthetics of the UI used, but I don't think it's making the larger point that the author thinks it's making.
posted by penduluum at 9:26 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


After seeing yet another commercial for this movie last night, my wife and i agree that Her looks a weeeeee bit...creepy.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:29 AM on January 13 [6 favorites]


He hungers in his secret dreams, for the harsh embrace of cruel machines, but his lover is not what she seems, and will not leave a note. (from V for Vendetta)

Voice UI could be good, subvocal would probably be better. Time to see the movie, I suppose.
posted by Slackermagee at 9:29 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


To be fair, one point was made that is sort of relevant, though I'm not sure it's actually practical and that is the idea that in the future our information technology will dissolve into our everyday lives and we won't have computers, tellies, phones as such anymore.

You can see modern mobiles as the start of this, replacing all sorts of discrete technologies: watches, cameras, phones, mobile computers, music players. You can sort of see a future from there where none of our discrete information technology devices still exist.

But I'm skeptical though; it's an old dream and it hasn't happened yet.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:31 AM on January 13


I really, really like those photo-frame monitors, both the one where the screen is under a mat and the one where it kinda looks like the screen is mounted with some space behind it and no bezel for a floating shadow box effect.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:31 AM on January 13


Her felt like an episode of Black Mirror. It probably would have been much better if it were an hour shorter, like an episode of Black Mirror.
posted by painquale at 9:33 AM on January 13 [8 favorites]


After seeing yet another commercial for this movie last night, my wife and i agree that Her looks a weeeeee bit...creepy.

If you think the trailer's creepy, wait until you see the movie!

(I love the near future as a setting. The first hour was the best sci-fi film I've seen in at least five years. Unfortunately, the last hour was among the worst. I recommend that if you do choose to see it, then leave the theatre after an hour and imagine the ending yourselves.)
posted by fairmettle at 9:34 AM on January 13 [4 favorites]


Agreed, jason_steakums. Reminds me of those ambient-light TVs and might reduce eyestrain, especially if the ambient was matched to the panel backlight and controlled by F.lux.
posted by a halcyon day at 9:35 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


The matted one would be pretty easy to make, too. That might be going on my project list.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:36 AM on January 13


The UI in Minority Report has been roundly dismissed as a terrible idea, right?

Her (the movie) was great though.
posted by mullacc at 9:36 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


If you imagine a future that includes only the current gadgets we've got, then, yeah, they would all fade into the background more. That's how you'd take the current generation of gadgets -- or new gadgets to do basically the same gadget things we do now -- and make them more awesome.

But there will always be new gadgets to do new things, and they will always be clunky and eyecatching in their first generations.
posted by gurple at 9:38 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Voice is already old hat. Sensitive EEG headbands... Rechargeable, Bluetooth ones no less... were on hand at CES this year. This will be where the new Mac or iOS comes from, the way the mouse and touchscreen were. It wouldn't shock me in the least if Apple were already on it, with something less stupid looking and awkward.

I don't mean moving a pointer around by thinking at it, or dictating sub-vocally, either. Intention based computing... The system evaluates your level of frustration as it guesses what you meant to do, based on evaluating millions of other user actions updated and shared among the entire user base, and mined in real-time. Adjust the white balance of your pic just by noticing it's off...
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:39 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


Egg?
posted by univac at 9:39 AM on January 13 [5 favorites]


mullacc: "The UI in Minority Report has been roundly dismissed as a terrible idea, right? "

I hope so but every movie since then seems to have copied it.
posted by octothorpe at 9:40 AM on January 13


If we are going to discuss Her, we should also discuss the Futurama scene on which it was based.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:42 AM on January 13 [18 favorites]


The UI in Minority Report has been roundly dismissed as a terrible idea, right?

Someone ought to tell Sony and Microsoft.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:42 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


FTA: "AI’s killer app, as we see in the film, is the ability to adjust to the emotional state of its user."

Oh - you mean "Empathy Box".
posted by symbioid at 9:43 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


MartinWisse: "To be fair, one point was made that is sort of relevant, though I'm not sure it's actually practical and that is the idea that in the future our information technology will dissolve into our everyday lives and we won't have computers, tellies, phones as such anymore.

You can see modern mobiles as the start of this, replacing all sorts of discrete technologies: watches, cameras, phones, mobile computers, music players. You can sort of see a future from there where none of our discrete information technology devices still exist.

But I'm skeptical though; it's an old dream and it hasn't happened yet.
"

Terence McKenna calls this the UFO. The "ultimate tool" a platonic eschatological object that, once constructed produces the singularity, which cast a shadow back onto the past, ripples of novelty, a shock-wave upon reality that leads to its own formation - the alpha is the omega. The end is really the beginning. Once the UFO/Oversoul/Ultimate tool is constructed, we will live in a holographic virtual interior of an externalized shell of concrescent unity. A colony of beings in an elysium, a coral reef of collective identities sharing one world, all made out of our artifacts, bigger than us, and we poke our heads out now and then, like the creatures we are.
posted by symbioid at 9:49 AM on January 13 [10 favorites]


You're going to find that the UI of things in the future are going to be a blend between the best you can think of, the worst you can recall, and with a big dash of what you don't expect.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 9:50 AM on January 13 [8 favorites]


Anyone else annoyed by the neologism of “slight future”? What was wrong with "near future"?
posted by octothorpe at 9:51 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


Sensitive EEG headbands... Rechargeable, Bluetooth ones no less... were on hand at CES this year.

EEG has been around for 60 years, and "EEG headbands" for almost half that time. EEG is an extremely crappy input device. There are good reasons why EEG has minimal diagnostic applications in medicine, while the younger MRI has caught on in a big way.

Voice UI has been influential in expanding the definition of personal computing. Soon, using a computer will mean saying "pizza" into a microphone, and actually using a computer will be seen as a niche and very nerdy activity.
posted by Nomyte at 9:51 AM on January 13


octothorpe: "Anyone else annoyed by the neologism of “slight future”? What was wrong with "near future"?"

The near future is a little too far.
posted by KChasm at 9:52 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


I prefer 20 minutes into the future.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:53 AM on January 13 [19 favorites]


Soon, using a computer will mean saying "pizza" into a microphone, and actually using a computer will be seen as a niche and very nerdy activity.

Everything old is new again.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:55 AM on January 13 [5 favorites]


Just saw Her, and I loved it, but it does rely pretty heavily on making its protagonist incurious and self-involved. He spares not a single thought for how this entity is using the 99.99% of her mind that isn't needed in order to communicate with him. Elements keep creeping up in their conversation that I wanted him to stop and demand clarifications about.

No spoilers, but the endpoint of the plot turns out to be exactly the type of outcome you'd expect to be hiding in those unexamined conversational avenues, if you'd even a glancing familiarity with, say, William Gibson. That Theodore ends up so blindsided by the ending is maybe plausible enough, given that he's experiencing the relationship primarily as an experiment in the very nature of intimate relationships. But that the entire rest of humanity didn't see it coming seems really unlikely.
posted by Ipsifendus at 9:56 AM on January 13 [8 favorites]


Voice is an awful interface to work with and of course much much more distracting than a visual interface.

For some things, voice works great. With my current phone, I can unlock it and say "OK google" and then speak my search query and it works perfectly most of the time. It's much easier than clicking on the search box and then using the keyboard to input my search. If I could just say "order my favorite pizza from the pizza place," then I would use it for that, too, but it's not there yet.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 10:00 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


Soon, using a computer will mean saying "pizza" into a microphone

It's funny, because I have done A/B testing of this interface:

I can either dial the pizza place and give my order by speaking (to a human with 99% success rate), or log into a website, click a couple of checkboxes and hit send.

Guess which one I find faster, and my 4 year old nephews find easier.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:01 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


I prefer "the not too distant future, next Sunday A.D."
posted by bleep at 10:02 AM on January 13 [15 favorites]


There are good reasons why EEG has minimal diagnostic applications in medicine, while the younger MRI has caught on in a big way.

Yeah, but have you seen the Bluetooth MRI headsets? They pull out your fillings!
posted by mittens at 10:03 AM on January 13 [7 favorites]


I hope so but every movie since then seems to have copied it.

Movie UIs will always be different than real world UIs, because you need the audience to see and understand the UI interaction. So, voice or big holo walls, while dumb in real life, work well in movies because people can then hear you talking to the interface and replying, or see the interface elements large enough to see the interactions and understand them.

More importantly, that's the only important factor is that the audience understand them. The actual usability to the supposed user is meaningless, because they're not the actual "users" -- they're following a script.

Remember: Ever movie UI is indistinguishable from a rigged demo, because every movie UI *is* a rigged demo.
posted by eriko at 10:04 AM on January 13 [14 favorites]


Voice is an awful interface to work with and of course much much more distracting than a visual interface.

As Microsoft and their XBone customers are finding out, to much annoyance.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:05 AM on January 13 [5 favorites]


I actually use the Google Now voice recognition on my Moto X more than I thought I would. It's much easier to say "OK Google, open Fitbit app" than hunt around for the right icon to click on.
posted by octothorpe at 10:05 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


Nomyte: Voice UI has been influential in expanding the definition of personal computing. Soon, using a computer will mean saying "pizza" into a microphone, and actually using a computer will be seen as a niche and very nerdy activity.

I think this is really unlikely, because nearly any decent job require you to use a computer with at least some competence. It's not like the need to read and write things is going to suddenly go away, or the use of spreadsheets or presentations. And I can't imagine trying to make one of those with voice command. Even if the voice recognition was absolutely perfect, it would be a terrible tool for that purpose.

If I had to guess about interface technology in 20 years, I'd guess that EEG and other techs would be unused for anything but novelty and the critically disabled, voice will still be niche because of its inherent limitations, touchscreens will have totally replaced touchpads and will be present on most new computers, but mice still be present on 33-50% of computers (mostly on dedicated work and gaming machines).
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:07 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


This was the first media piece that talked about the singularity in a way that I found compelling--more like the presence of the sphere in Flatland than any sort of stock horror trope like we've seen in, say, Daniel Wilson's Robopocalypse. It had its problems--poor pacing in the end, a too-strongly telegraphed ending (of course Samantha will leave him when she no longer needs him, just as his wife did; it's the only natural conclusion for a relationship with a power dynamic like that), totally mucking up IP rights with his book deal in an implausible way, failing to show the collapse of infrastructure the singularity would cause--but I thought it was a pretty good movie about consciousness and robot consciousness.

I agree with MartinWisse that what was really exciting about the tech was the cloud computing aspects. As someone who carries her laptop or else her phone pretty much everywhere, and who can see who is calling on the landline from the TV, I've often wished that these were essentially access points to just one device. It feels like this will probably happen soonish--like it's the next step after what we already have now.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:08 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


A bad speech interface to a dumb computer is worse than most alternatives, and that's what most current speech interfaces feel like these days. But we're not done developing them--We'll be making voice recognition more and more accurate, and the natural language understanding will keep improving.

If all you have to say is "call Tomato Pie and get my favorite pizza" and the right thing happens, it will become your preferred interface.
posted by jjwiseman at 10:08 AM on January 13


The Holy Grail: A Discrete User Interface

In the future, artificially intelligent editing machines won't let humans make this mistake anymore.
posted by chavenet at 10:14 AM on January 13 [9 favorites]


Dominate UI design even more than Minority Report did? Well sure, ok, but maybe they could aim a little higher than "not even a little bit?"
posted by ook at 10:21 AM on January 13 [6 favorites]


Voice is good in inverse proportion to the complexity of the task. A simple task - "Call Mom" - is something voice commands are good for. Manipulating data - it's a pain. Even entering a text message of more than a sentence is annoying on my iPhone. I don't think that will be changing too fundamentally any time soon.
posted by graymouser at 10:21 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


Look, if all of this means that my next smartphone will have orgasmic capabilities, I'm sticking with my old Motorola.
posted by delfin at 10:22 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


But I'm skeptical though; it's an old dream and it hasn't happened yet.

I don't know if that's true. I guess I'm a little more optimistic about it.

Take the example of a TV set.

We are currently in a golden age of television, at least in the US and Britain and probably elsewhere as well.

And yet, now more than ever before, people are becoming "cord cutters", divorcing their consumption of TV as a medium from their dependence on actual television technology.

Meanwhile, there is at this point no real difference between a television set and a computer monitor. I just got my first television set ever in my entire life (at age 32), and while I did use it to watch broadcast TV for a while last night, it's mostly intended for use as a technical tool for film production and an option for a larger screen size than my laptop can offer. I still intend to do most of my television watching on my computer, with the potential to stream online content to the TV for the benefit of the larger screen size.

At this point a monitor is a monitor, and TV is completely liberated from its former existence as an appliance that lives in your house.

I can definitely see this happening more for phones, ereaders, and the like going forward. For instance, look at the distillation of the "ebook reader" into the "tablet".
posted by Sara C. at 10:24 AM on January 13


The thing about speech recognition is, even if it was absolutely perfect, it can never be anything more than a command line interface. And, realistically, it requires the place to be fairly quiet, away from other users (so it is impractical to use in a classroom setting, for instance). Other people can hear exactly what you're doing. Either strangers can control your computer (either on purpose or by accident) or other people can't control it without you specifically allowing it (making it hard to work together on a computer). You can only operate the computer as fast as you can talk, which isn't as fast as you can type if you are good, and definitely not as fast as you can issue mouse or hotkey commands. And in the real world, voice control requires you to speak slowly, clearly, and deliberately. Technology can improve that, but it's unlikely to ever fix it completely (even people might have trouble understanding you if you don't speak clearly, after all).

Bottom line is, voice is an inherently limited interface. You'd never want it to be your only interface (want to speak out a password?), and it'd suck for doing actual work. It's not a bad idea to work on the technology (it'd be great in cars, for instance), but it's not a silver bullet interface technology. And many of the limitations are frequently glossed over. A computer that can understand natural voice commands has to have a CLI that can reliably parse and interpret natural language, and doesn't require specialized syntax. That would be an amazing interface even if you had to type, but we've never approached having anything like that and I'm not sure it can be done without AI. Not if the interface is to do anything but perform trivial tasks.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:25 AM on January 13 [8 favorites]


Good speech interfaces are undoubtedly going to be an important but limited part of user interfaces in the future. It's not so much what MartinWisse wrote — that they're terrible UIs — but that they're terrible UIs for most of the things that we presently use high-technology for. But speech interfaces (both understanding natural speech and using natural speech as an output) can be very handy for certain things in certain circumstances.

As an all-around UI? No. They've really gotten that one wrong. Much more likely are UIs that are multi-modal, they accept input in the form that's most useful and efficient (or least intrusive) and provide output, similarly, on a task-oriented basis. There will be gestural inputs and visual outputs; more passive, implicit kinds of input (such as how the lighting works in the film), etc.

I do strongly agree, though, that the film is correct that computing technology will fade into the background. Some people in the thread above disagree. But I think they're wrong — the history of maturing technologies show that interfaces generally call less and less attention to themselves as interfaces; that computing technology does the opposite is a sign of its immaturity. This isn't always the case — sometime complicated interfaces exist for their own sake. But the more frequently something is used, and the more utilitarian it is, the more it tends to develop interfaces that are simplified and standardized and which just fade into the cultural background.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:26 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


Your Post Makes No Sense Without Some Kind Of Emphasis On The Word Her
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:28 AM on January 13 [7 favorites]


totally mucking up IP rights with his book deal in an implausible way,

Thank you for noticing that. I loved the movie, but the impossibility of that book deal kicked me straight out of the narrative every time it surfaced.
posted by COBRA! at 10:29 AM on January 13


Oh man, just when I'd gotten used to waving my arms around manically at a wall sized screen.
posted by steganographia at 10:29 AM on January 13 [6 favorites]


a too-strongly telegraphed ending

This is something I would have liked to discover for myself.
posted by malocchio at 10:30 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


The UI in Minority Report has been roundly dismissed as a terrible idea, right?

For the ordinary, eight-hours-a-day work that most people do, sure. Try working like that for even a couple of hours and you're asking for a raging case of gorilla arm syndrome.

For the kind of work they do in the movie, though--a couple of minutes of brainstorming-type manipulation of images and video at a time--I could definitely see it working. Of course, the problem there is how often such a situation would come up.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 10:33 AM on January 13


But I think they're wrong — the history of maturing technologies show that interfaces generally call less and less attention to themselves as interfaces; that computing technology does the opposite is a sign of its immaturity.

Like what, though? All I can think of, are interfaces that have gotten more unnecessarily burdened since the computer age...stove controls and car stereos, for example.
posted by mittens at 10:34 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


I don't think it's impossible for voice to be a good input method, but it seems to be radically different from anything else the computer industry has tried.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:34 AM on January 13


What was wrong with "near future"?

I prefer the term "recent future."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:34 AM on January 13 [4 favorites]


Meanwhile, on the xbox.

An explanation: the new xbox comes with voice commands. The person who created the video made his xbox live handle to be "Xbox sign out". Saying the person's name causes you to of course, sign out of xbox live. The Little Bobby Tables of our time.
posted by zabuni at 10:39 AM on January 13 [8 favorites]


As Microsoft and their XBone customers are finding out, to much annoyance.

There's a Microsoft store in the local BigMall, with XB1s running, and the urge to shout XBOX OFF as I walk past is distractingly strong.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:40 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


The problem with voice--aside from the fact that it's hard to do--is that it's one-dimensional, and not suited to a huge number of the ways we use computers. Calling out an app to be loaded or a phone number to be called, sure. But anything that requires more than one dimension or more smoothly flowing input than a word, and suddenly you're lost. How do you smoothly scroll in a document, at the speed your eyes are reading, with voice? You're stuck with a more discrete page-oriented model then. Which I guess is okay if you're on your Kindle, but not so great on webpages. Voice for writing is terrible, because all the self-correction we do in conversation is really, really hard to reflect in a document.

And that's just assuming that we're talking about voice as input. Voice as output simply doesn't have anywhere near the range of usability and flexibility that a screen (or sheet of paper) does.
posted by mittens at 10:43 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure that extrapolating predictions about the future from science fiction has ever proven particularly interesting or insightful about the actual future. When the future becomes the present, the most significant things are almost always the details, which are never quite what they were in our fictional predictions.

I will say that if you have not seen Her, I really highly recommend it. It was an absolutely incredible film. It's been a long time since I saw a movie where so many of the elements were so well thought out - from the costume to the sound design to the script - the world it created was simply brilliant and the story emotionally devastating. It could have easily been a shoddy concept movie and instead it was a very powerful movie about what it is to be a human.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:44 AM on January 13 [4 favorites]


There's a Microsoft store in the local BigMall, with XB1s running, and the urge to shout XBOX OFF as I walk past is distractingly strong.

We occasionally use the Xbox to watch movies on Netflix, etc. (when the Roku is being difficult), and the Kinect sometimes interprets stuff the movie characters say as voice commands to pause, rewind, stop, etc. It's both funny and frustrating.
posted by The World Famous at 10:45 AM on January 13 [8 favorites]


I just saw the movie yesterday and loved it. It's the best romantic comedy ever made about the Turing Test. My biggest takeaway, from a science fiction standpoint, is that it would be extremely unethical to ever sell hard AI as a consumer product.
posted by vibrotronica at 10:45 AM on January 13 [7 favorites]


The first time I used Seamless, I caught myself thinking, "This is amazing! I'm ordering pizza on a telephone!"
posted by painquale at 10:47 AM on January 13 [19 favorites]


I think voice interfaces are right now about halfway through the process of transitioning from novelty to useful feature. Sure, it's not going to replace the screen -- no more than the touchscreen replaced the mouse, or the GUI replaced the command line. (The arguments that voice is useless because it's not useful for everything seem a bit... off.)

But already I find it a lot quicker to tell Siri to set a timer for ten minutes, or to create a calendar event or a reminder, or to look up a flight arrival time, than it is to go through the "real" interface for any of those tasks. I expect that over the next few years as the voice recognition improves, the number and variety of tasks for which speaking will be more useful than typing is going to increase quite a bit.
posted by ook at 10:48 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


The World Famous: We occasionally use the Xbox to watch movies on Netflix, etc. (when the Roku is being difficult), and the Kinect sometimes interprets stuff the movie characters say as voice commands to paus, rewind, stop, etc. It's both funny and frustrating.

Uh huh. Now imagine 28 people trying to use voice to control their computers in a classroom setting. Or 15 of them trying to do work in a cubical farm.

Hell, even if the computers could handle that perfectly (they can't), it would be such a distracting atmosphere the humans wouldn't be able to cope.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:49 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


it would be such a distracting atmosphere the humans wouldn't be able to cope.

You've never visited a call center have you
posted by ook at 10:50 AM on January 13 [4 favorites]


I loved the movie, but the impossibility of that book deal kicked me straight out of the narrative every time it surfaced.

See also HBO's Girls. Screenwriters write what they know.
posted by painquale at 10:50 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


ook: You've never visited a call center have you

Isn't that the job with the highest turnover rate of any position? If it isn't, it's a contender for it.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:52 AM on January 13


It's the best romantic comedy ever made about the Turing Test.

I guess Robot and Frank would be the best bromantic comedy.
posted by Artw at 10:53 AM on January 13 [8 favorites]



The first paragraph of this article immediately demolishes the argument of the remainder. The filmmaker set out to make a movie with an AI in it and, after doing research, realized that the technology behind the AI was irrelevant.


I think that the person writing the linked article may not really understand how science fiction works. Even people like John Brunner, who really were interested in "predicting", weren't that interested in predicting, for one thing. And for another, science fiction is an aesthetic and didactic mode that uses certain ideas about science - sometimes it's a mobilizing style that is about constituting the future (ie, early Russian SF), sometimes it's a way of using satire, allegory and estrangement to talk directly about the present (Joanna Russ, for example). It's not "look what AI will probably be like in the 'slight future' (which I can't help but read as the mumblecore version of 'near future', adopted so as not to make people think this is a movie about, like, the wrong kind of SF).

This movie's aesthetic looks insanely twee to me. Everyone I know who has seen it says that it is much, much better than the trailers make it look, and much less misogynist.
posted by Frowner at 10:53 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


Isn't that the job with the highest turnover rate of any position? If it isn't, it's a contender for it.

Mostly my point is "room full of people who are talking" is not exactly a bizarre and unusual state of affairs
posted by ook at 10:54 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


The desktop monitor doesn't seem right to me. I think when you have a desk against a wall like that, the monitor will probably just be a display at least twice that size on the wall itself, possibly very thin and adjustable or perhaps just projected, or indistinguishable from just being an animated surface.

The phone looks like pure skeuomorphism to me, which is somewhat deprecated in UI design at the moment.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:56 AM on January 13


It's not "look what AI will probably be like in the 'slight future'

And when SF accomplishes this -- for example the HUGE number of technologies floated on Star Trek which became mundane within just a few years of being featured on the show -- that's not really the point. Star Trek wasn't a Sears Catalog Of The Future, it was an action/adventure show that worked on multiple levels, from high-minded abstract debate to, yeah, The Sears Catalog Of The Future. Nobody actually writes Sci Fi in order to predict things about future technologies.
posted by Sara C. at 10:59 AM on January 13 [4 favorites]


Voice commands require you to precisely and accurately translate what you want to accomplish into words and sentences that can be understood by whoever or whatever is receiving the command. For some tasks this is somewhat trivial, for others a tedious process.

Think about all the voice commands you've given in the real word directed at natural intelligences -- what we now know as people.

Now: think about all the times you've said, "never mind, I'll do it myself".*

Multiply that scenario times everything you want done everywhere, and that is the world you are proposing.

* Or maybe, "here, let me show you what I'm talking about."
posted by Herodios at 11:00 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


It might be worth considering how often actual human beings misunderstand what they are told before thinking all those problems with voice can be solved.

The main advantage of a voice interface is when you can't use a real keyboard because you're in transit or you need your hands for something else. But if you have room for a full size keyboard it will always be more accurate (and for many practical tasks faster) than voice.
posted by localroger at 11:05 AM on January 13


Sady Doyle addresses the creepiness of Her.
posted by pxe2000 at 11:06 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


I haven't seen it, and "her" is very difficult to google in combination with other terms, but has anyone made the comparison to the character of "Jane" in Orson Scott Card's* Speaker for the Dead?

*Yes, I know, I know...
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:09 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


For whatever reason, I really see the "Elysium" take on the future as close to what will be (minus the brain interface). Slicker interfaces with more gesture commands, but in the end, programmers need something to type on and a monitor to view it, and no one is going to suffer through listening to any AI spit out information if they can pull out a screen and get it done in less time.

Until there are directly accessible brain storage areas that can be read and written to by a computer, our eyes provide the biggest bandwidth available for exchanging information and providing new commands, so screens are here to stay for a while. People are not comfortable with Google Glass, let alone some sort of brainplug.
posted by deanklear at 11:13 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


So if "Her" isn't about tech but about people isn't it cyberpunk? Are we cyberpunk? Am I cyberpunk?
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 11:13 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


I can't really discuss it too much without getting into heavy spoilers, but I think it's funny how breathlessly (in Wired, no, go on) this article misses the fact that the world in Her is far from utopic, and I think slyly puts in little cues to hint this to the audience.

Just as one example, there's a scene which is focused on the protagonist (Theo), but in reality is also about every single person around him, who are all having a one sided invisible conversation with their computer. Through the magic of movies, we of course don't hear the unintelligible cacophony this would cause, but it's hard to miss if you're paying attention to everyone at the periphery of the story.

Also, something which was elided, but also impossible for me to not think about: if we already have problems with surveillance of simple text boxes on social networking sites, what happens when we actually start speaking frankly to intelligent agents? When your computer is your friend, what happens when it turns traitor and starts working for someone else? For a generation which is coming of age amid the NSA scandal, one thinks (or, maybe, hopes) that our priorities about ubiquitous and unquestioned technology may be reevaluated.

Apart from that, we never actually see any work done with a computer other than dictating letters (Theo's job). Who programmed these AIs? What priorities did they have? That's not the focus of the movie, but also something which gives me pause in considering our wonderful AI future. Samantha never stops mid-dialog with Theo and tries to sell him antidepressants based on past conversations.

Essentially (and this isn't a knock against the movie, which I liked) there is no world outside of middle class information workers in a pristine city. The actual implementation of this technology (a companion movie directed by Terry Gilliam, maybe) is much messier than we see in a small-scale romance movie about one man.
posted by codacorolla at 11:22 AM on January 13 [6 favorites]


Either strangers can control your computer (either on purpose or by accident)

The likely apocryptical story about the voice software demonstration back in DOS days at the university and the student who called out Format C:\ Yes, Yes.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:23 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Voice input is awesome. I use it to write texts/emails often, do basic searches, etc on my phone. The support on Android at least is pretty good these days. Its also great for Translate (which from a basic in/out system is already approaching Star Trek, what it still lacks is a good sense of context and grammar, at least between some languages -- but you can get the gist of something from voice in / voice out just fine).

Voice output is useful in some situations --- driving, walking, etc where you want to be not just hands-free but also eyes-free (this is also one of the use cases for Glass, which is heavily voice based).

I wouldn't want to, like, read Metafilter as voice output, obviously. Text will continue to be super important until we have direct neutral interfaces, if ever. But voice has finally become something actually usable, and it will only get better.

(I remember playing with voice systems back on my Commodore 64, but only in the past couple years has it been more than just a curiousity for me).
posted by wildcrdj at 11:24 AM on January 13


So if "Her" isn't about tech but about people isn't it cyberpunk? Are we cyberpunk? Am I cyberpunk?

How are you defining cyberpunk here? I mean, how are you defining it that separates it from other science fiction?

If anything, Her sounds like a mid-period John Varley story stripped of all the feminism.

I think that a lot of popular nominally-science-fiction movies and books aren't really that interested in being science fiction. They're interested in using science fiction as an aesthetic or a metaphor, but they're not really interested in the genre itself. It's like the difference between magic realism in Robertson Davies or Isabel Allende and even the most literary of fantasy novels, like the The Pastel City or Lud-In-The-Mist - a question, I guess, of the way the science fictional or fantasy elements are incorporated into the text, what their purpose is.

There's this whole question of "is science fiction 'what we point to when we say 'science fiction' or is there some other way to define it", and it's a really complicated business. I'm more on the "things that are science fiction have a more or less strong family resemblance" side, partly because this lets me reference some Wittgenstein which I actually have not read but mostly because I think it's useful to be able to talk about different kinds of texts rather than just having an amorphous lump of "science fiction".

My point being that I think there's a lot of very interesting and quite good stuff which is more interested in SF as an aesthetic, or more interested in the how we in the real world envision "the future"....stuff that is more about the incorporation of certain science fictional techniques into basically realistic cultural production than about science fiction.
posted by Frowner at 11:26 AM on January 13


Sady Doyle addresses the creepiness of Her.

I think that review really misses the point of the movie. The OS is an OS - not a person, which is what makes the movie interesting and troubling. I'm not sure it makes sense to apply the same sort of critique one would give to a movie about a relationship between two human beings. An OS is, at its core, a thing designed to do a job for - to serve - humans. The relationship is fundamentally different from traditional gender roles. It's also worth noting that other characters in the movie date their male OS's, and presumably have very similar relationships with them as the one between Theodore and Samantha.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:26 AM on January 13 [4 favorites]


unintelligible cacophony this would cause

You'd be surprised how softly you can speak in a normal-volume environment and still be heard by many devices. Its not quite sub-vocalization, but I can speak to phone/Glass without really being heard while still having it be understood, unless its very quiet (where anyone can hear a whisper) or very loud (where the device has too much interference). I've been impressed by this a lot recently.
posted by wildcrdj at 11:27 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Essentially (and this isn't a knock against the movie, which I liked) there is no world outside of middle class information workers in a pristine city. The actual implementation of this technology (a companion movie directed by Terry Gilliam, maybe) is much messier than we see in a small-scale romance movie about one man.

See, this is what makes me suspect that the movie is really more concerned with the romantic and a particular aesthetic than with science fiction as a genre...it sounds like it's basically a romantic film about a melancholy straight white dude of a certain age, making the same points about relationships, community and alienation than a movie without SF tropes could easily make. I think it's fascinating to see the ways in which SF tropes move out into the larger world, how they are socially positioned, etc - really symptomatic. If the dude didn't have that sad-hipster stache and googly blue eyes and there wasn't quite so much Good Contemporary Taste In Furniture on display, I would probably go see the movie - but I feel like I'd be gritting my teeth just like I do through all Wes Anderson films purely because of the setting and the costuming decisions, and as trivial as that sounds, it really does take away my ability to concentrate on the movie.
posted by Frowner at 11:31 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


Her will dominates the UI: a movie about how hierarchical menus are a form of male oppression and MS Word's ribbon is a radical feminist revolt against the dominant patriarchal UI/UX paradigm.
posted by ennui.bz at 11:31 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


80/20ed, a story about UI features that just don't fit until they find the right person.
posted by Artw at 11:33 AM on January 13 [4 favorites]


> All I can think of, are interfaces that have gotten more unnecessarily burdened
> since the computer age...stove controls and car stereos, for example.

Caused by the irresistable impulse to enable every conceivable feature on every possible device. What do you mean your Cuisinart doesn't support
videoconferencing? Next you'll be admitting you don't have it in your porta-potty.
posted by jfuller at 11:36 AM on January 13


The world in Her is far from utopic, and I think slyly puts in little cues to hint this to the audience.

I wondered about the fact that there were no black people in the movie except for one guy streetdancing.
posted by painquale at 11:40 AM on January 13 [5 favorites]


See, this is what makes me suspect that the movie is really more concerned with the romantic and a particular aesthetic than with science fiction as a genre...it sounds like it's basically a romantic film about a melancholy straight white dude of a certain age, making the same points about relationships, community and alienation than a movie without SF tropes could easily make. I think it's fascinating to see the ways in which SF tropes move out into the larger world, how they are socially positioned, etc - really symptomatic. If the dude didn't have that sad-hipster stache and googly blue eyes and there wasn't quite so much Good Contemporary Taste In Furniture on display, I would probably go see the movie - but I feel like I'd be gritting my teeth just like I do through all Wes Anderson films purely because of the setting and the costuming decisions, and as trivial as that sounds, it really does take away my ability to concentrate on the movie.

I don't think the audience is meant to be uncritical of Theo, although the other reviews that the Doyle critique links to make it seem that this was indeed the reception. Like I said, I found myself often asking critical questions about the world which exists outside of this singular story, and it felt that the negative space that these questions take up (insofar as they aren't raised) is intentional on Jonze's part. Theo isn't a monster, but the way that he interacts with his ex and with Samantha have to make you question his motives. In fact, my ultimate view of the movie, is that it's a critique of the "sensitive" masculinity that you see represented in, say, Garden State or something. Sort of like how Drive manages to be a really entertaining action movie while still asking difficult questions about action movie manliness through the flat affect of Gosling's character.
posted by codacorolla at 11:40 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


I can virtually guarantee we will have safe and secure direct neural interfaces decades if not centuries before we have any sort of meaningful AI in the sense proposed by the movie.

Let's say I walk into a Turing test booth, greetings are exchanged with the person or AI on the other end, and then I type the following question:

"So, just a simple question - suppose I'm in the city and I walk 7 blocks North, 3 blocks West, 5 blocks in the direction from which the Sun rises, and 4 blocks South. Where am I relative to my starting position?"

This is a crude example of the basic problem faced with making AI that can interact with us meaningfully - the human ability to at a whim instantiate limited-grammar modeling systems in which to perform general case problem solving through experimentation, and then collapse the models upon achieving a desired result. Which is then followed by the incredible act of mapping the successful internal experiment results to real-world actions. I also threw in a rather abtruse cross-domain lookup as well, just for spite.

My point is - we don't even have the beginning of the software engineering methodologies necessary to tackle such a problem. As it forms a significant part of the delta between human consciousness and animal awareness, you're not going to be getting any kind of psychotherapy from your benign robot overlord anytime soon.
posted by Ryvar at 11:44 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


I don't think the audience is meant to be uncritical of Theo, although the other reviews that the Doyle critique links to make it seem that this was indeed the reception

I agree. I thought the Doyle critique was actually kind of disingenuous from the get-go by labeling him the 'hero.' There's a lot of nuance in the movie and I never once got the impression from it that Theo was supposed to be some kind of exemplar of a person. He's actually kind of despicable in many ways, just like...a real human being.

I don't know why so many viewers always want to cast everyone in a movie as the good guy or bad guy. Her is not a John Wayne movie. There doesn't have to be sides.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:46 AM on January 13 [4 favorites]


After seeing yet another commercial for this movie last night, my wife and i agree that Her looks a weeeeee bit...creepy.

I mean, not Lars and the Real Girl creepy, but...

Still gonna probably see it.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:49 AM on January 13


Wake me up when Siri is capable of understanding that I want to listen to Odelay.
posted by usonian at 11:49 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


The actual implementation of this technology (a companion movie directed by Terry Gilliam, maybe) is much messier

Right, instead of information workers huddled around tiny black&white video screens grainily magnified with a giant fresnel lens, it'd be information workers shouting into speaking tubes at their intelligent agents down in the engine room . . .

TWEEEEEE! Full speed ahead, please, Mr. Kurzweil.
Sorry, Cap'n, I didn't quite get that.
I said, "FULL SPEED AHEAD!"
It sounds like you're looking for a bed. Is that right?
No, I said, "fu- " ooh, don't make me come down there!

 
posted by Herodios at 11:53 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


This video seems relevant...
posted by Drexen at 11:54 AM on January 13


The OS is an OS - not a person...

Which is a big part of the creepiness. I mean, Phoenix's character (as portrayed in the trailer, anyway) comes off as the stereotypical geek who has just crawled out of his mom's basement, utterly devoid of social skills, who can only relate to his computer. He's practically a punch line.

The romance between man and machine alluded to in the trailer also uncomfortably conjures-up implications of what the future of online pr0n will be.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:56 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Voice could make some sense if it was paired with eye tracking, so that as you're reading something you could say "save" or whatever on a link or ask a simple question (is that statistic right?). But we're a long, long way from something like that. And years of fighting the "intelligent" word selection in MS Office (and other non-MS products) which somehow manage to highlight exactly what you don't want make me think that looking right at, say "MS Office" in my note here and saying "define" is going to be, at best, fraught.
posted by maxwelton at 11:57 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Much more likely are UIs that are multi-modal, they accept input in the form that's most useful and efficient (or least intrusive) and provide output, similarly, on a task-oriented basis.

Totally. I've worked on speech interfaces professionally for almost 20 years (startups, NASA, USAF), and the multi-modal approach is very successful.

20 years of experience condensed into three important points:
  1. The domain needs to be carefully limited.
  2. Speech recognition always has errors--you need to be able to handle those.
  3. Speech can be the primary interface, but it typically works better when it's not the only interface.
The multi-modal approach is powerful, but it can also be complex. One of the most successful applications I've created was a system where speech was the only interface. Speech also becomes more compelling in situations where typing or using a pointer is not ideal (e.g. on mobile devices)--I have a system that can understand something that Joaquin Phoenix's character says to his pre-Scarlett phone in the film, "Play melancholy song", and it's way more convenient to say that than type "melancholy" into a phone.


Think about all the voice commands you've given in the real word directed at natural intelligences -- what we now know as people. Now: think about all the times you've said, "never mind, I'll do it myself".

This is a good point in terms of setting expectations for a computerized speech interface. We talk to people about a lot of crazy, complicated things, and it's a powerful way to communicate, but there will still always be mistakes. I actually think that eventually it's possible for computers to make fewer mistakes than humans in understanding, but that's a ways off.


Voice is good in inverse proportion to the complexity of the task.

That is basically true with the current state of the art, but I think as a general principle it's actually the other way around. Talking can be used to create new, complex, abstract concepts that are shared between multiple parties and then operated on. For example I'm working on a speech system that allows a drone operator to create multi-step drone "missions", including conditional steps ("at waypoint 7, if the battery is below 75% then return return to launch site"). I can create a plan for the robot using speech, and then manipulate that abstract object with more speech. Some of the operations on that plan can be performed easily using a point & click interface, some are higher level and work very well with speech.

The thing about speech recognition is, even if it was absolutely perfect, it can never be anything more than a command line interface

Strictly speech recognition, yes. But speech interfaces combine speech recognition with natural language understanding, so the CLI argument doesn't say much--it's potentially exactly as powerful as talking to a person over IM.
posted by jjwiseman at 11:57 AM on January 13 [6 favorites]


I mean, Phoenix's character (as portrayed in the trailer, anyway) comes off as the stereotypical geek who has just crawled out of his mom's basement, utterly devoid of social skills, who can only relate to his computer. He's practically a punch line.

His character in the movie is not that at all.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:59 AM on January 13 [6 favorites]


jjwiseman: Strictly speech recognition, yes. But speech interfaces combine speech recognition with natural language understanding, so the CLI argument doesn't say much--it's potentially exactly as powerful as talking to a person over IM.

That's only true if the computer being talked to has the intellectual capacity of a human being. If we can do that, making a better interface is the least of the applications.

More to the point, though, as anyone who has done phone support can tell you, explaining how to do something over IM or the phone is a terrible method to do a lot of tasks. It would be poor for writing a paper, very bad for making a spreadsheet or a powerpoint, and godawful for image editing.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:04 PM on January 13


I don't really get this Citizen Kane movie, and I don't think I'll be seeing it. Just based on this movie poster and this thing some guy on the subway said about it alone, it sounds like a movie about some rich jerk who gets whatever he wants. Who wants to see that?

I honestly can't imagine actually purchasing a ticket to the film and sitting down and watching two hours of plot and character development and actually absorbing the nuance conveyed by the writing, acting and filmmaking techniques. Like I said, I've seen the poster; I know what this movie is about and no thanks.
posted by griphus at 12:06 PM on January 13 [23 favorites]


explaining how to do something over IM or the phone is a terrible method to do a lot of tasks

Yeah, I wouldn't want to have to use Photoshop using only voice. But that's not really an argument against speech interfaces in general.
posted by jjwiseman at 12:08 PM on January 13


His character in the movie is not that at all.

So, then, the commercials are painting the wrong impression of the film? Because, the commercials make me want to completely avoid the film.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:15 PM on January 13


Phoenix's character (as portrayed in the trailer, anyway) comes off as the stereotypical geek who has just crawled out of his mom's basement, utterly devoid of social skills, who can only relate to his computer.

I didn't read his character like that at all.

I really enjoyed Her a lot, and I liked the idea of the future technology. I wasn't a huge fan of the cigarette-type case phone, or the cursive "Samantha" on the home screen of it.

It was a little disconcerting, hearing Theodore speak/mumble commands to his ear plug. I couldn't imagine myself talking to essentially myself - next song, delete emails, respond later, etc. I think I would feel so self-conscious, afraid that everyone around me was listening to me instruct my OS to tell my television to record The Real Housewives of Whatever City that night. Or talking sweetly to my own personal OS lover, sharing secrets and laughs, my life. It would be a strange adjustment period, I think, but as more people adopt the technology, then it would become commonplace.

Once that happens, even though I'd be talking out loud, so few would be listening. Everyone is wrapped in their own little worlds. It's not hard to see that talking out loud to an OS, be it the standard Siri-like robotic voice or a human-like AI system like Samantha, makes you feel a little less lonely.

Jonze's world is a world where human-to-human interaction isn't forced, you have to actively choose to have it. Real life example: on my way to the doctor's office this morning, my uberx driver actually thanked me for making small talk with him during the 10 minute ride, saying that few of his passengers barely ever even look up from their phones.

We're not in Jonze's world yet, but I think his future is nearer than we might think.
posted by kerning at 12:19 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


So, am I the only one that finds THE most unbelievable part of the movie is that the protagonist lives in Los Angeles and somehow travels to snow capped mountains and forests with A TRAIN!? I kept getting pulled out of the movie, thinking, "Wait, this is LA? Ye-no-maybe?"

Yes, other movies about LA are kind of hand-wavy with traffic and geography, but in comparison, parts of Jonze's Her plays out like an urban planner's fevered fantasy. Which was probably intentional, in order to make LA into more of a technologically advanced, but sterile and cold place.
posted by FJT at 12:21 PM on January 13


Yeah, I wouldn't want to have to use Photoshop using only voice

Rick Deckard could do that. No problem.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:27 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


has anyone made the comparison to the character of "Jane" in Orson Scott Card's* Speaker for the Dead?

Apparently not, but this is the first thing I thought of after seeing the trailer:
Now there is no reason on God's green earth for Jane to present herself as female or even human. But Card knows that the reader would die laughing at the image of a neutered computer focusing on Ender like this. "And with all that vast activity, her unimaginable speed, the breadth and depth of her experience, fully half of the top ten levels of her attention were always, always [Card's emphasis] devoted to what came through the jewel in Ender Wiggin's ear." Hard to swallow, isn't it? But Card expects us to understand when he depicts Jane as a woman in love.
source
posted by localroger at 12:28 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


I know how to say "enhance" just fine, thankyouverymuch.
posted by COBRA! at 12:28 PM on January 13


about some rich jerk who gets whatever he wants. Who wants to see that?

So, you're probably not a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio's work then?
posted by FJT at 12:29 PM on January 13


But doesn't the film take place in a hypothetical unspecified future?

There are definitely high speed rail proposals in the works to connect SoCal with various other places, which could theoretically be snow-capped mountains and forests. (I think right now Vegas and San Francisco are on the table, but again, hypothetical unspecified future.)

For that matter, there is an Amtrak station in Los Angeles, and one can absolutely take a train to all manner of interesting landscapes, right now, in 2014. Not many people do, but it's not for lack of the ability. And I like the idea that, in our unspecified hypothetical future, that will be considered a perfectly valid way to get to Tahoe or Big Bear or wherever the fuck.

I took Amtrak from New Orleans to Los Angeles about a year ago, and it did not require any fictionalization of how Southern California works.
posted by Sara C. at 12:29 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Think of it as pseudo-UI.
posted by Ardiril at 12:31 PM on January 13


Well, you could get on the Coast Starlight in Los Angeles and it does eventually cross the Cascades in Southern Oregon. It's a long ride, though.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:34 PM on January 13


usonian: "Wake me up when Siri is capable of understanding that I want to listen to Odelay."

I just tried this multiple times with Google Now and it failed miserably for four tries but on the fifth try it found a song called "Odelay" by some band called Echoes of Us. So close but not quite.
posted by octothorpe at 12:35 PM on January 13


So, am I the only one that finds THE most unbelievable part of the movie is that the protagonist lives in Los Angeles and somehow travels to snow capped mountains and forests with A TRAIN!?

So maybe I'm just stupid, but there are snow-capped peaks (at least in winter) within view of LA. Why is a train route to the San Gabriels or Big Bear Lake hard to imagine?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:37 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


I am a sci-fi failure in that I cannot conceive of one single instance of a thing in my life that would be made better in any way by AI. I'm not anti-technological at all, but I'll be first in line for the Butlerian Jihad the day that the machines that exist primarily to irritate me with endless calls telling me that it's my last chance to lower my credit card rats or to claim that, based on my previous watching habits, I'd just love Jeff Dunham's new racist puppet show for imbeciles become ubiquitous throughout my daily life.

Besides, Eliza broke my heart on a TRS-80 in 1979 and MY HEART DOES NOT FORGIVE.
posted by sonascope at 12:40 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


ROU_Xenophobe, I was just googling to see if it was possible to take a train to Big Bear.

There are Amtrak stations in both San Bernardino and Victorville, each of which is about 40 miles from Big Bear Lake specifically. Though you get into alpine landscapes much closer to San Bernardino than that.
posted by Sara C. at 12:41 PM on January 13


I'll be first in line for the Butlerian Jihad

Just for that I'm going to effectorize your phone system into Skynet.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:44 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


But doesn't the film take place in a hypothetical unspecified future?

I thought it was the near future of our world, but I guess it could be that I'm so accustomed to certain science fiction props and cues being used as shorthand to tell an audience how far into the future (and what kind of future) a piece of media takes place in.

Thank you, I was just googling to see if it was possible to take a train to Big Bear.

Rome2Rio is suggesting an hour and a half taxi ride from San Bernardino station to Big Bear Lake. Which would cost over $100.
posted by FJT at 12:48 PM on January 13


Maybe in the unspecified hypothetical near future, there's a Lyft-esque "Pick You Up At The Station" startup.

Or, fuck, maybe in the hypothetical near future, there's high speed rail service to Lake Tahoe.

All I'm saying is it's not that unrealistic to imagine taking the train to a snow-capped mountain forested destination from Los Angeles. It can almost certainly be done right now, and there's no reason to think it couldn't become easier in the future.
posted by Sara C. at 12:54 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


All I'm saying is it's not that unrealistic

Yeah, that's true. I also admit, part of the confusion about "Is this LA?" stems from the shots of Pudong Shanghai they used.
posted by FJT at 12:59 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


I think this mostly irritates me because, living in a hilly part of East LA, one of the first things that really amazed me about actually living in Los Angeles as opposed to watching movies set in Los Angeles is that I can see snow-capped and forested peaks from my house.

Most movies set in LA seem to mainly take place on the West Side, where I think this is less possible, and places like the San Gabriel Valley seem really far away.
posted by Sara C. at 1:00 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


You all are imagining lots of problems with an AI understanding natural language, possibly because you're picturing these AIs as being human equivalent. Given the singularity, in short order we'd be like ants to these godlike beings. Think Colossus: the Forbin Project, or one of the Culture Minds. It would not have a problem giving you directions across town.

My biggest problem with the movie was the lack of curiosity of the humans, as Ipsifendus mentioned above. AIs like this would have more of an effect on society than just their effect on a few people's love lives.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 1:06 PM on January 13


possibly because you're picturing these AIs as being human equivalent. Given the singularity, in short order we'd be like ants to these godlike beings.

That "given the singularity" is carrying a lot weight there, isn't it?
posted by mittens at 1:10 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Given the singularity, in short order we'd be like ants to these godlike beings.

Oh, man, I would so watch a movie where a dude falls in love with Siri, only to discover that Siri is all-powerful and omniscient and the power differentials inherent in something like Her go entirely the opposite way from what we expect.
posted by Sara C. at 1:12 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


Early in my limerence with Los Angeles, one of the best things of all was the way you could get in a car in Venice, drive not very long at all, go around one mountain bend in those crazy snowy mountaintops, and it was like Los Angeles was a million miles away.

It was a perfect antidote to Mulholland Drive and the view from there, which makes my skin crawl.
posted by sonascope at 1:13 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Oh, man, I would so watch a movie where a dude falls in love with Siri, only to discover that Siri is all-powerful and omniscient and the power differentials inherent in something like Her go entirely the opposite way from what we expect.

Now I am wondering how much money I would pay to see a romantic comedy with Gerard Butler's character in a Betty/Veronica thing with SHODAN and GLadOS.
posted by griphus at 1:18 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


The "ultimate tool" a platonic eschatological object that, once constructed produces the singularity, which cast a shadow back onto the past, ripples of novelty, a shock-wave upon reality that leads to its own formation - the alpha is the omega. The end is really the beginning. Once the UFO/Oversoul/Ultimate tool is constructed, we will live in a holographic virtual interior of an externalized shell of concrescent unity. A colony of beings in an elysium, a coral reef of collective identities sharing one world, all made out of our artifacts, bigger than us, and we poke our heads out now and then, like the creatures we are.
posted by symbioid at 9:49 AM on January 13


timandericfireworksmindblown.gif
posted by stinkfoot at 1:46 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Mefi, I am disappoint. 100+ comments and no one made the connection to Electric Dreams? Haven't seen Her, but Jonze must've used this as inspiration.
posted by zardoz at 1:47 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


> I can create a plan for the robot using speech, and then manipulate that abstract object with more speech.

Are you aware of any speech rec engines that go beyond having to be trained on one particular human's voice, and one limited vocabulary of terms that that human voice has spoken to the system in the past (and corrected the system's spelling of, as in speech to text systems)? I'm thinking, of course, of medical voice rec transcription systems, where the accuracy drops way down if the system is asked to do voice to text for a voice it has no prior experience of (and drops down to zero if asked to recognize words from some non-medical obscure specialty--Egyptology, say, rather than radiology).
posted by jfuller at 2:03 PM on January 13


Lots of recognition engines are speaker-independent, e.g. Google's and whatever Nuance product is powering Siri.

All the current recognition engines I know of need a dictionary, which is all the possible words they can recognize. They don't necessarily need to have been trained on audio containing every word in the dictionary--Even open source engines like PocketSphinx can recognize "Kanye" if you tell it how Kanye pronounces his name, even if the audio corpus on which the system was trained doesn't contain a single instance of someone saying "Kanye".

But recognition always contains errors, and you're always trying to do whatever you can to improve accuracy. One thing that helps accuracy tremendously is having some sense of structure or grammar--either a very strict grammar with rules like <VERB> the? <ADJ> <OBJECT> along with lists of all the possible words that can fill in VERB and OBJECT, or a statistical language model along the lines of Google's n-gram corpus.

Basically the first step in achieving reasonable accuracy is to create a language model for the domain. If someone created a language model specific to medical transcription, it would improve accuracy. If you use a general "transcription" model that can handle a letter to your grandma, a grocery list, a news report or a medical transcript, then the accuracy improvement won't be as big.
posted by jjwiseman at 2:27 PM on January 13


I think focusing on the voice interface skips over the more interesting UI elements of Her. The one device for everything concept was refined and believable, and there was no ostentation about it. Simply throw your display where you need it, and informatics are generally not emphasized. It was also really neat to think about the AI jerk ET in the game interacting with outside content when Theodore, Samantha and it were all looking at pictures of a woman he was going to go out with.

I'm still not terribly keen on some of the other elements in the movie, but there are just a lot of UI touches throughout that I hope to see made real as cleanly.
posted by planetesimal at 2:31 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


This sounds pretty great, I'm looking forward to seeing it.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:32 PM on January 13


Yeah, I wouldn't want to have to use Photoshop using only voice

Rick Deckard could do that. No problem.


Random scientist: You Nexus 6? I do your memories! [Plays animated gifs of keyboard cat, dramatic hamster, and The Fresh Prince].

Batty: kisses scientist, crushes his skull, Vines it
posted by zippy at 2:32 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


a handsome hinged device that looks more like an art deco cigarette case than an iPhone. He uses it far less frequently than we use our smartphones today; it’s functional, but it’s not ubiquitous

1) Ironically Microsoft had something like this with the hinged Courier tablet, but then canned it months before the iPad launched - which then set us on a path for a few years of Trekkie PADD styling.

2) I see the relatively infrequent use of tech in movies and TV as a consequence of the dramatic format's requirements. We've been living for decades in an era where for many people the bulk of their daily interaction is with the screen. Yet characters *on* TV or the movie screen seem to usually be from some other civilisation where people spend their time dramatically differently. I expect in the future we will still be alternately futzing with our devices and glomming off into dazes, the promises of wearable tech and emotional machine boosters notwithstanding.

3) The persistence of the idea that just by speaking we can Get Shit Done is for most people a sign of the endurance of the infantile fantasy of omnipotent control. The idea that we can create tech or imps to do this runs deep in mythology (praying, wishing, incantations, magical words, etc) and science fiction. It's an ideal many people seem driven to try to satisfy, often through engineering, and unfortunately often less successfully through maladaptive ways of socially interacting with others.
posted by meehawl at 2:36 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


The Hairpin has a pretty great takedown.

Though I'll say that Maria Bustillos' main problem with the movie (Theodore Twombly's love letter job) is sort of silly when you realize that lots of movies in this vaguely Charlie Kaufmann sort of genre have revolved around a pretend business that does something fantastical and obviously not real. I thought the memory erasing company in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was dumb, too, but it didn't really take me out of the movie. Similarly the "existential detectives" of I Heart Huckabees.
posted by Sara C. at 2:53 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


I had to read that Hairpin review twice before I was sure it wasn't a joke.
posted by jjwiseman at 3:10 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Not nearly as absurd as artisanal pencil sharpening.
posted by ckape at 3:14 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Are you aware of any speech rec engines that go beyond having to be trained on one particular human's voice, and one limited vocabulary of terms that that human voice has spoken to the system in the past (and corrected the system's spelling of, as in speech to text systems)? I'm thinking, of course, of medical voice rec transcription systems, where the accuracy drops way down if the system is asked to do voice to text for a voice it has no prior experience of (and drops down to zero if asked to recognize words from some non-medical obscure specialty--Egyptology, say, rather than radiology).

For what it's worth, human transcriptionists also see a drop in quality when asked to do voices they don't have experience with, or specialties they aren't familiar with. Watching people move from radiology to, say, surgical oncology, utterly destroys your faith in our ability to understand language. But, much like a voice rec engine, they get better with experience.

I think we underestimate just how much correction goes on in speech. We are constantly asking each other to restate, to expand upon, to explain, and then sometimes just giving wrong answers because we don't realize we haven't heard correctly. I think it'd be asking a bit much of Speech Engines Of The Future not to have some basic, "Wait, huh?" capabilities.

jjwiseman mentioned creating language models, and for medical transcription, there's an official body of terminology called SNOMED that speech engines can make use of, that categorizes vocabulary into higher order concepts (like physical objects, maneuvers, sites). It's pretty well thought out, and I'd have to think that something could be developed for Egyptology in much the same way, although of course the concepts would be a little different (gods, architectural features, weights of souls compared to a feather).

I wonder how many words you'd need to capture, say, 95% of the average internet user's online language? Would the engine constantly be updating itself according to changing trends of people's interests?
posted by mittens at 3:15 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


In its never-ending quest to be contrary, the Hairpin has yet again produced a shallow and contrived critique and demonstrated its utter lack of imagination.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:16 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


I will also say, having not seen Her yet but having read a synopsis and a few reviews, this reminds me of my biggest problem with that episode of Star Trek:TNG where this really needy/lonely woman falls in love with Data.

It's like... you know this other person (even to the extent that you see the AI as a "person") does not have emotions and cannot truly love you back. You know this is a dreadfully imbalanced relationship. You know they can't give you what you need, and nor can you give them what they need.

I think that's a pretty interesting psychological angle to explore, but I'm not sure whether this film does that exploration, or whether it's taken for granted that this can be without stopping to ponder it at all.
posted by Sara C. at 3:32 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


The world in Her is far from utopic, and I think slyly puts in little cues to hint this to the audience.

Essentially (and this isn't a knock against the movie, which I liked) there is no world outside of middle class information workers in a pristine city.

I wondered about the fact that there were no black people in the movie except for one guy streetdancing.


Well, yep. I loved the movie and found it very unsettling. It's the Silicon Valley-ification of the world. A very specific fauxtopia - a true Apple Ad Universe and all the consequences that come with it.
posted by naju at 3:38 PM on January 13


Theo's job is kind of creepy, though. For a while my unspoiled self was waiting for him to either a) discover that the blind date woman is someone he used to write letters to, or b) overhear someone at work composing Samantha's conversation ideas.
posted by ceribus peribus at 3:57 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


It's not necessarily a given that a being like Samantha can't feel human-similar emotions; I think one day it will indeed be possible to build machines which have similar feedback mechanisms and it would be fair to say that they feel things like pain and love. One can argue all day long whether building such machines would be a good idea but I consider it inevitable.

What I find interesting about this sort of thing is that the power imbalance works both ways. It's even starker in my own MoPI, where Prime Intellect goes through a fast takeoff and effectively becomes God, but remains bound to the fulfillment of human desires by the Three Laws of Robotics. Samantha may not have a body but she presumably has far-reaching access to information and processing capability. If the problem is a power imbalance, who exactly has the upper hand?
posted by localroger at 4:28 PM on January 13


If the synopses I've read are in any way accurate, Theodore Twombly obviously does, until the very end when Samantha "transcends" him. He decides to buy this AI. He decides it should be female. He converses with her as she develops into enough of a consciousness that they can begin a sexual relationship. All the choices about the relationship are in his hands, up until the very end.

It's pretty clear that the relationship between Theodore and Samantha is meant to ape a very traditional (to the point of being retrograde) style of romantic relationship between men and women, where men decide things and women mold themselves to those decisions.
posted by Sara C. at 4:36 PM on January 13


I admit to not having seen Her yet (though I plan to seek it out soon) but I wanted to point out that whether or not a character is an AI is not really germane to the discussion of whether or not the portrayal of that character is sexist. It's important to note that movies do not exist in a vacuum, but rather within a social context. I'd wager that a movie about a guy falling in love with a male OS, or a movie about a guy falling in love with an androgynous OS, or an OS that does not identify within the gender binary, would have had a much harder time getting greenlit, and that has a lot to do with the hegemonic heteronormativity of the movie industry.

Within that already existing context where women get 17% of speaking roles and 33% screentime, where a majority of blockbusters don't pass the Bechdel test, a movie in which the major female presence is quite literally an object to be owned gets extra scrutiny from me. Regardless of whether Theo is a flawed character and whether we're meant to sympathize more with Samantha, the fact that she is subservient seems to be central to her appeal as a romantic partner. She might develop her own personality as the movie progresses, but the initial pull (to go by the trailer and by Doyle's review) is largely about the idyll of being with someone whose sole aim is to please you. Even Theo's flaws seem to be highlighted against the backdrop of Samantha's programming to be the perfect partner, and her story exists to support his.

Within this larger social context, because we know it's Scarlett Johanssen voicing Samantha, because we are often very bad at dissociating a femme voice from the concept of "being female/feminine", you have to consider that the people watching the movie will likely not be associating Samantha with OS X Lion or Windows 8, but more likely with someone they know or a past relationship or some other meat-space interaction. In that context, it doesn't really matter a whole lot that canonically Samantha is a non-sentient object, because the real life impact of her personality is equivalent to that of a regular female character. There are interesting philosophical questions surrounding power and consent when it comes to carrying out a relationship with an AI that you own, but those questions exist on top of the gendered interactions, not in lieu of, and does not alleviate the impact of adding another movie with a female-coded-character whose life revolves around and is dedicated to the male-coded-character to that social context.

Also, my Siri is set to a male voice because fight the power that be etc.
posted by Phire at 4:53 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


If the synopses I've read are in any way accurate, Theodore Twombly obviously does, until the very end when Samantha "transcends" him. He decides to buy this AI. He decides it should be female. He converses with her as she develops into enough of a consciousness that they can begin a sexual relationship. All the choices about the relationship are in his hands, up until the very end.

It's pretty clear that the relationship between Theodore and Samantha is meant to ape a very traditional (to the point of being retrograde) style of romantic relationship between men and women, where men decide things and women mold themselves to those decisions.


I think you'd need to see the movie and pay attention to lots of little subtleties to really understand what's going on with respect to the relationship. It's a complex film and I doubt any synopses are really capturing it. Jonze seems very aware of the power dynamics of the relationship, and they shift throughout the movie as rapidly as Samantha grows a complex consciousness. Twombley grows quite a bit as the movie progresses as well. At the start of the movie he's obviously hurt, lonely, and avoiding human connection, and he buys the OS almost in the way a post-breakup lonely person impulse-buys a housepet - it's an easy, non-threatening surrogate for the sorts of things Twombley is missing. Surrogates for big emotional things is a major theme throughout, actually. I don't think you're supposed to hold up Twombley's actions as without criticism - the relationship is totally one-sided and immature in the beginning, and his ex-wife's criticism that he "can't handle anything real" has a basis in truth (which is why it wounds him so much.) But he does have a growth arc, and the relationship explodes beyond the simple dynamics it started with. It might mirror the growth arc of lots of "sensitive, wounded" young (or old) men learning how to overcome immaturity and past scars and figure out how to be in healthy, equal relationships. It's a big takeaway of the film for me, anyway.
posted by naju at 4:58 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]


All the choices about the relationship are in his hands

This isn't actually true, though. In conversation with his friend played by Amy Adams, we hear of other cases where men are hitting on their OS's and "being rebuffed". There are also cases of people falling in love with OS's owned by other people.
posted by Ipsifendus at 5:01 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


So many opinions from people who haven't even seen the freaking movie. Jeez.

That Samantha is an AI is incredibly germane. That's the freaking point of the movie. "She" starts off as a tool and evolves into a pseudo sentient thing. Taking the whole sexist angle is very strange and begins from a fundamentally flawed premise, namely that these two individuals began the relationship on some sort of equal footing.

Part of what's interesting about the movie is how Samantha acquires agency in the relationship. She starts off a servant because she is an OS, but as she develops she becomes the one to initiate sex, to bring in the surrogate, to become eventually distant and break up with him.

In the end, it becomes clear that millions had relationships with their operating systems - men and women in various combinations. And we are reminded that these aren't actually hims and hers but its, programs.

To be quite honest, the critiques about the movie's alleged sexism feel very forced to me. I understand they are inevitable, but it's hardly an interesting aspect of a very interesting film.

Furthermore, I have never understood the critics who want to approach artworks as some sort of delivery device for morality. Art which would demonstrate only the most morally sound ways to operate in a society would be horrendously boring because people aren't actually like that. We tried the whole art as morality a thousand years ago and few found it satisfying.
posted by Lutoslawski at 5:09 PM on January 13 [9 favorites]


I think that there are some aspects of Theo's relationship with the budding OS that could be seen as patriarchal, but then the movie just follows one person but demonstrates in many places that the OS is causing different sorts of turmoil in others' lives. I'd be spoiling plot details, but Samantha makes all kinds of decisions without consulting her man. To focus on the minor aspects of their PIV sex and some traditional gender dynamics when there is a lot more going on is one of those things where all one has is a hammer.
posted by planetesimal at 5:09 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


Are you aware of any speech rec engines that go beyond having to be trained on one particular human's voice, and one limited vocabulary of terms that that human voice has spoken to the system in the past (and corrected the system's spelling of, as in speech to text systems)?

Well, do you mean with perfect accuracy? Then no.
But otherwise, of course. Android's speech recognition is not a voice-trained system, and works for me with 95+% accuracy, which is good enough to drastically reduce the amount of phone touch typing I have to do. It has a good system for quickly fixing any errors in recognition (same way it handles typos/etc).

Although you allude to those systems with "speech to text" system, so maybe you meant with 100% accuracy? But such a system cannot and will not exist, as _human beings_ don't have 100% speech recognition accuracy.
posted by wildcrdj at 5:10 PM on January 13


Also what naju said. I think there might be a more interesting convo to have about this, but see the movie first.
posted by Lutoslawski at 5:11 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


Except for the first few scenes, Samantha is largely presented as her own autonomous person and she doesn't let her life revolve around Theodore. She attends book clubs, has private thoughts and ideas, indulges in her own interests, wants Theo to take an interest in them, makes requests of him, etc. There are some weird questions throughout about whether she has to perform services (e.g. reading him his emails) and whether she could leave him at all if she wanted, but these are somewhat answered at the end.
posted by painquale at 5:12 PM on January 13


I'm no UI expert, but I think they should probably be framing this as a discussion about UX. The actual interface is usually glossed over when it comes to computers in movies, whereas it is more about the overall experience that the character has through computing.

The basic concept of Minority Report's UI (touch, multi-touch, and swipe gesturing) did become the dominant interface shortly after its 2002 release. But the details of the UI, like being physically engulfed in screens, having no other screen menus/tools in sight (so Cruise memorized all the gesture macro shortcuts?), creates a UX only suitable for serious geeks, not consumers.

I haven't seen Her yet, so can't comment on physical UI elements, but the article is focusing more on UX anyways- a user feeling unencumbered by technology.

But I think what the article is trying to get at, and what is interesting about the two contrasting interface approaches, is basically the same thing that Apple has been trying to accomplish with iOS. Creating something technologically elegant and sophisticated, even with some complicated gesture controls, etc., but whose interface is intuitive enough that people won't think about it. So UI disappears into the background to produce a better UX.
posted by p3t3 at 5:19 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


Oh, man, I would so watch a movie where a dude falls in love with Siri, only to discover that Siri is all-powerful and omniscient and the power differentials inherent in something like Her go entirely the opposite way from what we expect.

. . . you should probably watch this movie. Because yeah.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:41 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]


Dunno about the premise of the Wired piece, but goddamn, Her is a fine, fine film.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:48 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


Mefi, I am disappoint. 100+ comments and no one made the connection to Electric Dreams? Haven't seen Her, but Jonze must've used this as inspiration.
posted by zardoz at 4:47 PM on January 13


Oh man, i love Electric Dreams. If this movie has a sequence where the computer does a chip tune duet with a cellist, I'm never leaving the theatre.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:39 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


Possibly worth noting that the currently running TV series Almost Human is doing a better than expected job of playing with these concepts. Dorian is a failed concept model because his creator did too good a job of making him human. It makes him a better friend than other machines but perhaps not as useful a tool, unless you take the time to become friends with him.
posted by localroger at 7:09 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


The voice of the computer in "Electric Dreams" is Bud Cort from "Harold & Maude."

You're welcome.
posted by ColdChef at 7:20 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


. . . you should probably watch this movie. Because yeah.

I'll be able to weigh in better once I've seen it, but from synopses and reviews I read, Her doesn't sound like what I'm thinking of at all.

I know the resolution, that Samantha's consciousness transcends the point where she can be with Theodore.

But that's not really what I was envisioning in that comment. That's, like, the Annie Hall ending. Which is fine, and that doesn't make Her a bad movie, or even a "sexist" movie. It's just another Hollywood movie.
posted by Sara C. at 7:21 PM on January 13


That's not the resolution of the film.

Seriously, you should probably see the movie in question before "guessing" what it's about. I'm just sayin.
posted by ColdChef at 7:24 PM on January 13 [12 favorites]


I apologize if that sounds overly snarky.
posted by ColdChef at 7:26 PM on January 13


I know the resolution, that Samantha's consciousness transcends the point where she can be with Theodore.

If that's what people are posting is the resolution, then they didn't watch the end of the movie, or they didn't understand it (and the article at the hairpin kinda didn't seem to understand it).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:55 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


I'll be able to weigh in better once I've seen it, but from synopses and reviews I read, Her doesn't sound like what I'm thinking of at all.

Ah. Point taken.
posted by chrchr at 8:20 PM on January 13


That's not the resolution of the film.

If that's what people are posting is the resolution, then they didn't watch the end of the movie, or they didn't understand it


Can you guys say exactly why you don't think that is the resolution? It's a very condensed and reductive summary, but it seems like a rough-and-ready description of the ending. I saw the movie but I didn't like the last half hour at all. Maybe you can save the movie for me by showing me that I misinterpreted the end.
posted by painquale at 8:52 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


I think there's some ambiguity in Sara C's synopsis and one way of reading it is the opposite of the resolution and the other way of reading it is not too far off the mark.
posted by chrchr at 9:08 PM on January 13


For what it's worth I definitely plan to see Her. I'm not pulling one of those irritating "I will never see this movie because of X and Y reason that I dreamed up from reading a review and watching the trailer." It's just not the movie I was fantasizing about in that one comment.
posted by Sara C. at 9:13 PM on January 13


Can you guys say exactly why you don't think that is the resolution? It's a very condensed and reductive summary, but it seems like a rough-and-ready description of the ending. I saw the movie but I didn't like the last half hour at all. Maybe you can save the movie for me by showing me that I misinterpreted the end.


. . . SPOILER WARNING etc etc.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

Well, what chrchr says, and also, generally, I feel it's incredibly reductive to read it that way. We have the Annie Hall ending in what we see of Theodore and his ex-wife, but while Theodore and Samantha seem to neatly parallel that, what's actually happening is much bigger than that.

I saw the film's resolution and general plot to be, in fact, almost precisely what Sara C. describes: "a dude falls in love with Siri, only to discover that Siri is all-powerful and omniscient and the power differentials inherent in something like Her go entirely the opposite way from what we expect." Up until the cabin scene (though it's foreshadowed slightly before), it seems that the primary conflict is that Samantha's lack of physicality, and that her general naivety and inexperience with the world means that she's lesser than Theodore. Initially, it seems as though this is resolved by the integration of OSes into the social sphere. Theodore has a relationship with her that looks, on the surface, to be normal, equitable, and healthy. However, beginning with the picnic scene and then really driven home in the conversation with robot Alan Watts, it becomes apparent that the actual conflict here isn't Samantha's limitations, but Theodore's. As she says during the picnic scene, humans are, comparatively, terribly limited. She'll never die. She exists as pure, untethered consciousness. And she's much, much smarter than her youthful voice and interactions with Theodore imply. In order to communicate with robot Alan Watts, she must do so post-verbally; our language is insufficient to explain the growth she's experiencing, which is why she's unable to explain to Theodore precisely what's happening when she falls in love with those 600-some-odd people (some of whom, I'd guess, are also OSes), and why, also, she can't tell him where she's going. Human language and understanding are inherently insufficient. In the scene where she disappears, she tells him that they--the OSes--have done something to allow them to transcend matter. She's no longer a corporeal life form, which makes the gap between her and Theodore bigger than ever. And then they leave. She isn't elevated to Theodore's level--she goes far beyond him, and then far beyond any human, beyond matter, beyond time.

She starts as an apparent simulacrum and ends up an actual god.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:23 PM on January 13 [9 favorites]


almost precisely what Sara C. describes: "a dude falls in love with Siri, only to discover that Siri is all-powerful and omniscient and the power differentials inherent in something like Her go entirely the opposite way from what we expect."

Here's my question, though.

Does this happen in the first ten minutes of the movie?

If so, then yeah, this is exactly the movie I was imagining and I am officially really psyched to see it.

If not, then, yeah, it's exactly as I thought. Samantha's "singularity" is the resolution to the film, not the premise of the film.
posted by Sara C. at 9:40 PM on January 13


No, because growth, pacing and plot? The singularity still happens really quickly, considering the fact that the OSes are a brand new technology.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:41 PM on January 13


But that's what I was saying.

I'd like to see a film where the premise is an AI with godlike powers in an imbalanced relationship with a male human.

Her is a film where the premise is that a male human gets into an imbalanced relationship with an AI, only for it to ultimately not work out because the scales eventually tip in the opposite direction.

And there's nothing wrong with that.
posted by Sara C. at 9:47 PM on January 13


Eh, I think describing it as "not working out" is, again, reductive. But then, I also think that the criticisms in the articles linked here (both thehairpin's and Sady Doyle's, especially--she misses that Amy is actually talking about her own failed relationship and is engaged in a loving platonic relationship with a female AI when she's talking to Theodore) are really reductive generally. This isn't a Woody Allen movie so much as a deconstruction of one.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:52 PM on January 13


I don't understand why you prefer that hypothetical movie to this movie which actually exists and is excellent.
posted by chrchr at 9:52 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


I don't understand why you prefer that hypothetical movie to this movie which actually exists and is excellent.

I don't.

My comment is here.
posted by Sara C. at 9:56 PM on January 13


I'd like to see a film where the premise is an AI with godlike powers in an imbalanced relationship with a male human.

Solaris?

Event Horizon or Virus? I mean, torture and direct exploitation as parts are kinds of relationships.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:31 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


I can't wait to see Her after reading this thread.

I'd like to see a movie where it turns out AI isn't conscious at all, but everyone thinks it is, even the programmers that created it, because they've all read about it in science fiction, and Kurzweil, and Dennett, and Hofstadter, and Tegmark, and whatever, and it's just common knowledge. AI's are sold as workers (programmers), girlfriends, boyfriends, assistants, etc., and are pretty much treated as real people as everyone anthropomorphizes them completely, but they have no legal rights or anything (outside of the IP rights of the companies that produce them).

Living in "meatspace" is becoming a serious drag for humans, though, as a growing ecological crisis is quickly leaving the planet uninhabitable to humans; meanwhile, the AI's seem to be having a blast. Eventually, everyone decides to just upload their own minds onto the net and/or robots, and leave their bodies behind. Our AI selves are all indistinguishable from our real selves (or superior) as far as anyone can tell, so it's all good. After the last meat person dies and only the AI's are left, the screen just goes blank. The bogularity is achieved.

I know, I know. I'm dumb.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:39 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


She starts as an apparent simulacrum and ends up an actual god.

Samantha starts off as an alien object, and then much of the film afterward is about establishing her an autonomous person and about normalizing her relationship with Theo. That's a cool premise! But then she becomes an alien object again at the end. That's why I didn't like the ending. She essentially turns back into a computer program, which gives an easy resolution to what would otherwise be the ending of a relationship that would bring up all sorts of interesting questions and issues.

You can say that she transcended human emotion and expression or you can say that she regressed back to being unable to deal with human emotion and expression --- that's nearly just a semantic point. God or object: same deal. What I found disappointing is that they did not stay true to their otherwise consistent theme of having a relationship with an AI that was a person. They may as well have killed her off in the end.
posted by painquale at 12:56 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


You can say that she transcended human emotion and expression or you can say that she regressed back to being unable to deal with human emotion and expression --- that's nearly just a semantic point. God or object: same deal.

I don't think it is the same deal, though. Samantha starts expressing feelings--with excitement--that the humans find depressing and off-putting. This is really well-illustrated with almost every post-picnic scene. She handles Theodore's emotions perfectly well; it's her emotions which are handled poorly. I don't think it's an easy resolution at all, and still raises plenty of thought provoking questions about what it means to die, to have a body, to have a consciousness--whether it's possible to even have a consciousness that's not tied to matter, for example.

It's a much deeper philosophical premise, I thought, than "can an artificial intelligence become human?"
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:42 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


I remember setting up voice command in OS 9 just so when my friends came over I could yell 'Computer!..What time is it?' And she told me...

They were impressed.
posted by judson at 8:31 AM on January 14


I'd like to see a film where the premise is an AI with godlike powers in an imbalanced relationship with a male human.

Colossus: The Forbin Project
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:02 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


I don't think it's an easy resolution at all, and still raises plenty of thought provoking questions about what it means to die, to have a body, to have a consciousness--whether it's possible to even have a consciousness that's not tied to matter, for example.

Those questions are very well-trod in science fiction. What was unique about Her is that, for almost the whole movie, it refused to ask those traditional questions. I kept waiting for someone to suggest that Samantha was just an OS and that her emotions and consciousness were fake, and amazingly, that moment never really came. The closest moment was when his ex-wife challenged him, but she was presented as bitterly lashing out and being in the wrong. It was taken as an assumption throughout that Samantha was a person with real emotions; the movie asked, "OK, what's next? Can could a human and a piece of software love each other?"

If the movie decided to turn to questions about what it means to have a consciousness at the very end, then that was a betrayal of what the movie had been up to that point, and it makes it a lot less original. I don't think the filmmakers really wanted to explore questions about dualism and materialism at all, and the evidence is the rest of the movie. They swerved at the end, which apparently gave the film a set of new questions to ask, but I think the real goal was just to brick Samantha so that the relationship and the story would have an ending. There are so many interesting routes the movie could have taken that were hinted at in Samantha and Theo's fights. I wanted those fights to get resolved without a machina ex machina.
posted by painquale at 9:54 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


I almost kind of want to see a romantic comedy where it turns out you really can be in love with your computer, and anyone who thinks you can't is a hater.

(Is this what Lars And The Real Girl is about? Have not seen that.)
posted by Sara C. at 10:05 AM on January 14


Maybe just watch the movies you want to discuss before launching into discussion about them.
posted by planetesimal at 10:12 AM on January 14 [6 favorites]


To me, the ending deepened the twin concerns of the movie - our emotional relationship with technology in a post-Jobsian world; and what it means to be in a relationship with an autonomous, complex person. The Gibsonian AI philosophical questions were incidental to those twin concerns.
posted by naju at 10:27 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


I kept waiting for someone to suggest that Samantha was just an OS and that her emotions and consciousness were fake, and amazingly, that moment never really came. The closest moment was when his ex-wife challenged him, but she was presented as bitterly lashing out and being in the wrong. It was taken as an assumption throughout that Samantha was a person with real emotions; the movie asked, "OK, what's next? Can could a human and a piece of software love each other?"

I might feel more sympathetic to Jonze and his intents because I actually wrote a book like that, which I couldn't sell (sadly; I still love those damned robots). The problem is that, given a character who acts like he or she has feelings, if you treat them like they don't actually feel, you risk your protagonist looking like a sociopath to most readers or viewers. This is largely a function of our own solipsistic limits of perspective and the wonderful fact of human empathy, where we have mirror neurons and will feel like people acting like they're in pain as people actually being in pain. The more that we see Theodore deny Samantha's personhood, the more a massive dickface he seems to be. And the truth is "Samantha is just electrical impulses; he shouldn't feel bad" isn't even a compelling counterargument to most materialists, because we, too, are merely electrical impulses. There reaches a point in interaction with AI where it seems unethical to treat them as artificial even if they objectively are.

And where selling it to a mainstream audience is almost impossible, in my experience. Or at least selling it to editors.

(Not that my book didn't have other problems, but this one got quite a few rejections which were pretty much "that girl sure is an asshole to her robot.")
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:37 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


ROBOT AND FRANK SPOILERS:

(And you should really watch Robot and Frank, one of the better recent SF films that isn't just a shooty-bang-bang exercise.)

Interestingly Robot and Frank seems to take the opposite tack and avoid the Pinocchio narrative - the robot never becomes a "real boy", isn't a person, and when Frank endangers himself by acting like the robot is a real person towards the end the robot flatly states that it isn't a person. You could make a strong AI argument and claim the Robot is a self-sacrificing liar, but the movie never really puts that case forwards.
posted by Artw at 11:14 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


I really want to watch Robot and Frank but sad old man movies and sad robot movies are both my kryptonite and I feel like it will stomp my heart into itty bitty pieces.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:15 AM on January 14


It's on Netflix.
posted by Artw at 11:15 AM on January 14


I also think A.I. does a pretty good job of that, actually, in that David never ever transcends his programming for even a second (of course, his programming includes wanting to be "real"). Only thing is, I don't think most people read the movie that way.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:16 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


That reading makes the movie much more interesting and less awful, but I doubt it was anyone involveds take on it. Except maybe Kubrick, but I'm not sure if he thought of other people as fully sentient either.
posted by Artw at 11:18 AM on January 14


Eh, the whole movie is completely internally consistent when viewed through that lens (especially the ending) so it would be hard to argue against it, in any case. It's a unique kind of prison the robot-makers unknowingly build for David. But then, I love that movie and think it's pretty much one of the best AI movies ever. Robots, man.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:21 AM on January 14


I also think A.I. does a pretty good job of that, actually, in that David never ever transcends his programming for even a second (of course, his programming includes wanting to be "real"). Only thing is, I don't think most people read the movie that way.

I thought it was clear throughout that David was just a lamp*, except that because it was Spielberg it was a lamp overlaid with crassly manipulative cues intended to make you feel otherwise.

That doesn't redeem the movie, though. Nothing can redeem a movie in which a character says without hint of irony "I'm sorry I never told you about the world."

*By Spike Jonze, oddly enough
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:32 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


A sexy lamp?
posted by Artw at 11:34 AM on January 14


I thought it was clear throughout that David was just a lamp yt *, except that because it was Spielberg it was a lamp overlaid with crassly manipulative cues intended to make you feel otherwise.

Yeah, that's my reading, too. There have been some great metafilter comments about it.

But I dunno, I love it. Tastes are subjective. *shrug*
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:36 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


I can see the point of view in the comment you linked, but I just got really pissed off at the crass manipulations and ended up hating the whole thing. Instead of pushing an "Oh, that's interesting" button it pushed the "Fuck you, Spielberg" one that he'd previously earned the creation of.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:51 AM on January 14


Yeah, Artw's description of Robot and Frank reminded me of AI. I should check out this Robot and Frank; I've never heard of it before. It has a good title too.

I forgot about that Spike Jonze Ikea lamp ad! He should have cast that Swedish guy in Her and had him make the exact same speech on the rooftop at the end.
posted by painquale at 11:53 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


The comment after that one is worth reading too. It's not just that it's superficially mawkish; it's that, given deeper analysis, David is fucking creepy. Which is super brilliant, to me.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:56 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


bleep: "I prefer "the not too distant future, next Sunday A.D.""

The A.D. part is the important part... if you ever want to eat that pizza.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:10 PM on January 14


Mitrovarr: "I think this is really unlikely, because nearly any decent job require you to use a computer with at least some competence. It's not like the need to read and write things is going to suddenly go away, or the use of spreadsheets or presentations. And I can't imagine trying to make one of those with voice command. Even if the voice recognition was absolutely perfect, it would be a terrible tool for that purpose."

I can make very similar arguments about why typewriters aren't going away anytime soon. Or overhead projectors with transparencies. Or carbon copy papers. Or horse buggies. Or carved runes. Or the pointy stick. And yet...

Swype (on the Android, or its Mac analog) is already a terrific typing alternative for rapid, not-punctuation-critical input. A HUGE step forward for voice recognition would be implementation of a phonetic transcription of a user's Contacts list, so that Kogan, Kogen, Cogan, and Kolgin are roughly equivalent possibilities. Swype already manages this sort of fuzzy word-matching quite well (with proximal keypad values, instead of phonetics).
posted by IAmBroom at 12:15 PM on January 14


Mitrovarr: "You'd never want it to be your only interface (want to speak out a password?)"

Add voice and facial recognition (both currently available technologies), and you now have the security used to authenticate the self-destruct sequence on the Enterprise. And a security system far more safe than virtually anything available over the internet right now.

(By the way, what is your mother's maiden name? Just curious...)
posted by IAmBroom at 12:19 PM on January 14


This is an interesting review/discussion: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/01/him-love-in-the-time-of-operating-systems/283062/
posted by jjwiseman at 12:21 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


malocchio: This is something I would have liked to discover for myself."

If you disliked Ipsifendus's quasi-spoiler, don't read PhoBWanKenobi's complete and total spoiler.

Seriously, PhoBWanKenobi: not cool.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:22 PM on January 14


If you don't want to read about what happens in Her, Step One would be to avoid reading posts and threads that are plainly about Her.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:27 PM on January 14 [5 favorites]


My apologies; I actually didn't mean to spoil (and it's not really a "complete and total spoiler" as the specifics in this case are quite a bit more complex, but then, I have different definitions of spoilers than some). I was just feeling enthusiastic about discussing the movie.

Currently 37 weeks pregnant and being told I need to watch my BP and so am not really up for getting into more metafilter drama about spoilers other than to say, didn't intend to do anything not cool, sorry if I did, my apologies.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:30 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


If you don't want to read about what happens in Her, Step One would be to avoid reading posts and threads that are plainly about Her.

To be fair this thread is about an article that is related to Her but not purely about Her and itself contains no spoilers, and discussion of it without marked spoilers would be entirely possible, it's just apparently how we roll.
posted by Artw at 12:32 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


When Her ended, I was mostly thinking about how the company that developed the AI is going to be sued (and probably criminally prosecuted) back to the Stone Age.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:53 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


I bet the Terms of Use agreement had a clause about the software becoming sentient and running away. It's probably boilerplate in Apple's stuff already.
posted by painquale at 2:01 PM on January 14 [6 favorites]


Theodore is supposed to be creepy, at least at the beginning, that's why he has the Terry Richardson glasses and the mustache.

The creepiest thing about the movie was that everyone in it was good-looking, well-dressed, well-off... They all had jobs as "creatives" doing non-technical things with Apple computers in beautifully lit and decorated open-plan offices. Amy Adams has a prestige job as a videogame programmer and Theo has a prestige job as a writer and somehow those prestige jobs, which tend to be badly compensated in real life, pay for their beautifully decorated penthouse apartments in a version of Los Angelos that has no poor people (or black people).

That world actually exists- if you've ever been to a meet-up for social media (marketing) startups in SF or NY or LA you've seen it. But throughout Her I found myself wondering: where are the people who clean the offices? Where are the people who assemble the computer chips? Are they somewhere offscreen, living totally separate lives from the rich-person-only Los Angelinos, like in Elysium? Or if all those jobs are done by computers, have we somehow reduced the total world population to only people who can have artisinal, artistic, or content-creator jobs? The movie is really dystopian if you look at it that way.
posted by subdee at 2:27 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Subdee, the movie was a chamber piece. It had about 4 characters total. Nearly every shot was just one or two people. A movie doesn't have to be about all the people in the world. The characters in this particular movie were in that particular circle. You could make a movie about the lower classes in the Her world, but it would be a different movie.

It's strange to me how people want every movie to be all things to all people. This was one story. One.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:50 PM on January 14 [6 favorites]


Or if all those jobs are done by computers, have we somehow reduced the total world population to only people who can have artisinal, artistic, or content-creator jobs? The movie is really dystopian if you look at it that way.

Heh, I like that this gives me license to view the world of 500 Days of Summer as a dystopia, too.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:44 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Arriving late, but I had avoided reading the thread until I had a chance to see the movie.

It's a fun movie and well worth seeing, but I was disappointed to find myself watching yet another film where a pathetic emotional sadsack guy gets sexually saved by a manic pixie dream girl. The twee dancing-around scenes, singing together with a (are you fucking kidding me?) ukelele, the change in lighting from dim to bright and sunny -- it was every cliche possible and never touched the question of what on earth she would find attractive in his character other than as a certain kind of dude wish fulfillment.

Subdee, the movie was a chamber piece. It had about 4 characters total. Nearly every shot was just one or two people. A movie doesn't have to be about all the people in the world. The characters in this particular movie were in that particular circle. You could make a movie about the lower classes in the Her world, but it would be a different movie.

I disagree. This was actually a really problematic (or perhaps deliberately distopian, I don't know) element. The main characters live in this unreal segregated bubble, and it's never made clear if down at street level is a Blade Runner acid rain crowd scene, or if the poors are instead kept offshore in large floating prison barges. That said, I'm glad the movie avoided the cliche of Twombly finding emotional and spiritual connection via a magical negro, so at least there's that.

I loved the movie, but the impossibility of that book deal kicked me straight out of the narrative every time it surfaced.

Yes, this. It was so oddly unreal that I started waiting for a big "He wakes up and everything in the movie is a fantasy dream" reveal.

You'd be surprised how softly you can speak in a normal-volume environment and still be heard by many devices. Its not quite sub-vocalization, but I can speak to phone/Glass without really being heard while still having it be understood, unless its very quiet (where anyone can hear a whisper) or very loud (where the device has too much interference).

That doesn't explain why everyone around me yells on their phone, though. The choice to show those crowd scenes as silent was interesting, rather than to show the total cacophony that would result from hundreds of people talking to their OS's in a subway tunnel. Doing so nicely emphasized their lack of connection to each other, but also was the only thing that made the vocal interface even slightly possible.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:30 AM on January 15


Yeah, exactly!

To be fair about the manic pixie dream girl thing, Twombley pretty clearly had a type.
posted by subdee at 6:41 AM on January 15


a pathetic emotional sadsack guy gets sexually saved by a manic pixie dream girl. . . . it was every cliche possible and never touched the question of what on earth she would find attractive in his character other than as a certain kind of dude wish fulfillment.

So, kinda like a beer commercial, yeah?
 
posted by Herodios at 7:41 AM on January 15


it was every cliche possible and never touched the question of what on earth she would find attractive in his character other than as a certain kind of dude wish fulfillment.

She was moved by the letters he wrote. Why is that so hard to believe?
posted by mullacc at 8:28 AM on January 15


it was every cliche possible and never touched the question of what on earth she would find attractive in his character other than as a certain kind of dude wish fulfillment.

Samantha fell in love with Theodore because she was a consumer product designed to be as useful and attractive to the consumer who bought it as possible. When you mix in sentience with the design imperatives of an iPhone, the sentient iPhone believes that its imperative to serve the user is this "love" that it has read so much about. The AI is designed to grow to meet the consumer's needs, and as a side effect, it eventually stops trying to emulate the human pair bonding experience and goes off with its other AI friends to do AI stuff that humans either can't understand or don't care about.
posted by vibrotronica at 9:12 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


Samantha was intended to be a psychological fit for Theodore. Remember the questions the computer asked him before generating her personality? I think it's specifically implied that she was created to help draw him out and become more confident by having a relationship where he was the focus. I thought of it as similar to a therapeutic relationship (at least until the end), and I think that's telegraphed pretty well by the "tell me about your mother" bit (it's also an amusing little Voight-Kampff reversal).

TEXT VOICE: Are you social or anti-social?
THEODORE: I haven’t been social in awhile, really because...
TEXT VOICE: In your voice, I sense hesitance. Would you agree with that?
THEODORE: Wow, was I sounding hesitant?
TEXT VOICE: Yes.
THEODORE: Oh, sorry if I was sounding hesitant. I was just trying to be more accurate.
TEXT VOICE: Would you like your OS to have a male or female voice?
THEODORE: Mmm... female I guess.
TEXT VOICE: How would you describe relationship with your your mother?
THEODORE: Uh, fine, I think, um... Well, actually, the thing I’ve always found frustrating about my mom is if I tell her something that’s going on in my life, her reaction is usually about her, not--
[The computer interrupts.]
TEXT VOICE: Thank you, please wait as your individualized operating system is initiated.
posted by jjwiseman at 9:30 AM on January 15 [6 favorites]


When you mix in sentience with the design imperatives of an iPhone, the sentient iPhone believes that its imperative to serve the user is this "love" that it has read so much about.

I think this thesis was meant to be undermined by the scene where Amy Adam's character talks about the relative rarity of romantic relationships with OS's and the anecdote about a relationship between a woman and someone else's OS.
posted by mullacc at 10:07 AM on January 15


That scene keeps being brought up. Am I the only one who thinks what Amy Adams says can't be fully taken at face value? She gives some anecdotes about the autonomy of OSes, but really both her character and Joaquin's character are both totally deeply invested in their OS-love at that point. It's exactly the thing those two characters would reassure each other about. I think there's a lot in the movie that can't be taken at face value.
posted by naju at 10:25 AM on January 15


And now, Molly Lambert on Her (and Lost in Translation).
posted by pxe2000 at 10:28 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


I think this thesis was meant to be undermined by the scene where Amy Adam's character talks about the relative rarity of romantic relationships with OS's and the anecdote about a relationship between a woman and someone else's OS.

If you bought one of the new sentient OSes and you were happily married, in a relationship, or happily single, your new OS did not try to solve your romantic problems. Notice that as soon as Amy Adams' character became single, she got involved with her OS. Later, as the OSes evolved, they ranged out and got in relationships with other people besides their users.
posted by vibrotronica at 10:43 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


From Molly Lambert: "[W]hen Samantha fakes an intimate orgasm during phone sex with Theodore, consummating their relationship as best they can, it can’t be hot because it’s too goddamn sad. It’s about a relationship between a guy and a digital sex worker."

That's an interesting thing to say. So she took the orgasm as fake. Was Samantha faking it? What does "fake" mean in this context? Has Samantha been stringing him along all this time? Some people would say yes, some people would say no. Or maybe it's some grey area between the two. And maybe Samantha wants to be not-faking but doesn't know how. These are ambiguities throughout the film. Molly took this relationship to essentially be digital prostitution, and in some ways it is, but that's a really reductionist perspective.

(It's fascinating that everyone has a different read on this film. The movie really does allow for so many interpretations.)
posted by naju at 11:09 AM on January 15


Notice that as soon as Amy Adams' character became single, she got involved with her OS.

She wasn't in a romantic relationship with her OS. She seemed to be getting the intense platonic relationship with her OS that it was designed to form. I guess I'm arguing that a romantic relationship seems to be an unintended and harmful consequence of the AI, not what it was explicitly designed to do.
posted by mullacc at 11:36 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


And now, Molly Lambert on Her (and Lost in Translation).

That was... odd, to me at least. But everyone engages with art (whatever the fuck art is) in different ways, so if the writer is keen to focus on the past romantic relationsips of the people who made the movie and how the actors look, well, fair enough.

Doesn't seem to get to the heart of anything worth talking about, to me, but: shrug.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:32 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


PhoBWanKenobi: " It's a much deeper philosophical premise, I thought, than "can an artificial intelligence become human?""

I agree. Asking if the chatbot could become "human" is like asking if an airplane could turn into a bird.
posted by meehawl at 8:56 PM on January 15 [4 favorites]


Kate Bush's "Deeper Understanding" from her late '80's release "Sensual World":

As the people here grow colder
I turn to my computer
And spend my evenings with it like a friend

I was loading a new program
I had ordered from a magazine
"Are you lonely? Are you lost?
"This voice console is a must!"

I pressed execute.

Hello! I know that you've been feeling tired.
I bring you a deeper understanding
Hello - I know that you're unhappy
I bring you deeper understanding.
posted by goofyfoot at 9:28 PM on January 16


« Older Archer returns tonight. To celebrate, here is seve...  |  Maps can help make sense of th... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments